Having diabetes can increase a person’s risk of developing certain eye diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma, which can cause vision loss and even blindness. Fortunately, good eye care can preserve vision and reduce the likelihood of developing eye diseases. Implementing an eye care plan today can help those with diabetes preserve their vision in the future.
Diabetes is a condition characterized by high blood sugar levels, a condition known as hyperglycemia. High blood sugar can damage the blood vessels in the retina, which is light-sensitive tissue lining the inside of the eye. The retina absorbs light and the visual information it carries about the outside world, and then converts that information into electrical impulses. The optic nerve carries the impulses to the brain, which translates the impulses.
Hyperglycemia can damage the blood vessels of the retina to cause vision problems, including diabetic retinopathy, a condition that can lead to vision loss and blindness. Having too much sugar in the bloodstream can prevent the normal drainage of fluid from the eye, and this can increase pressure inside the eye. High blood sugar can also change the shape of the eye’s lens to cause blurry vision.
Fortunately, good eye care can prevent some of the eye conditions associated with diabetes.
5 Tips for Healthy Eyes for People with Diabetes
1. Control blood sugar levels
High blood sugar levels increase the chances of developing a long-term eye problem, such as diabetic retinopathy. Control blood sugar levels with a nutritious diet, exercise and medications.
2. Control blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels
Both high blood pressure and high cholesterol can increase the risk of eye disease and vision loss in people with diabetes. A blood pressure less than 140/90 is good goal for many people with diabetes, although a healthcare provider may recommend a lower blood pressure for those with a higher risk of eye problems. Those with diabetes should have their blood pressure checked at least twice per year. A healthy diet, exercise and taking medications as prescribed can help keep blood pressure and cholesterol at healthy levels.
3. Quit smoking
The risk for diabetic retinopathy and other eye diseases is higher in people who smoke. Giving up tobacco reduces this risk.
Exercise is good for the eyes. The American Ophthalmology Association notes a number of studies that show the benefits of exercise for eye health. Exercise can also help keep blood sugar levels under control.
Some exercises can strain the blood vessels in the eyes to increase the risk of eye problems. People with diabetes should consult a physician before playing football, hockey, or other high impact sports, or engaging in weightlifting or other exercises that involve straining.
5. See an eye doctor at least once a year
In many cases, diabetic eye diseases do not cause symptoms in their early stages. In fact, many people with diabetes do not realize they have an eye problem until high blood sugar levels have caused significant damage to the retina or other parts of the eye. Fortunately, an eye doctor can perform a variety of special eye exams to detect signs of eye conditions long before they can cause serious damage. Regular eye appointments help an eye doctor detect and recommend treatment as soon as possible for an optimal outcome.
For best results, patients should see an eye doctor who takes care of people with diabetes. Depending on the results of the eye exams and how well controlled blood sugar levels are, an eye doctor may recommend patients return more often than once per year. People with diabetes should share the findings of their eye doctor with their primary care provider.
Know when to call a doctor
People with diabetes should make an appointment to see their healthcare provider whenever they experience changes in their vision, such as being unable to see in dim light, blind spots, double vision, hazy or blurry vision, eye pain, headaches, spots floating in the field of vision, poor peripheral vision, or seeing shadows.
For more information about diabetic eye care, contact the eye care professionals at Coldwater Vision Center.